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Author Topic: Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)  (Read 392 times)

organic

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« on: June 16, 2002, 09:29:00 pm »
Let's talk soil :D
If you have a specific formula, have had luck with specific brands of premade potting soil, or have just tried different amendments with various success, please add them to this post as a handy reference.  We will try to stay away from items that are primarily fertilizers, except for compost and worm castings, which occupy a grey area between soil amendment and fertilizer as they exhibit properties of both.
I'll start it out with a list of some common ingredients in soil mixes.  Maybe somebody else can start adding in descriptions and recommendations, like what percentage of the soil volume is optimal, or "don't use x if you're also using y"...just some ideas.
Peat Moss
Coco Coir (shredded coconut fibre)
Perlite
Vermiculite
Pumice
Ground crustacean shells (oyster shells)
Compost
Worm castings
Shredded forest products (bark)
Activated charcoal
OK now...go! :D
O

ommamedmar

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2002, 09:42:00 pm »
I was just thinking to myself "hmm...when is Organic going to post a thread about building your own soil? Seems like a good idea considering the percentage of outdoor or otherwise butt-poor growers on this site." And lo and behold! It happened!
I recently weeded and dug up some conditioned soil from between rows in my garden; I'm going to need about 200 gallons of soil in all to complete my outdoor grow (30 gallon pots X7) and I would rather not raise any eyebrows at the local gardening store.
To one 30 gallon container I have added one large bag of vermiculite, turned in about 15 gallons of dark, rich garden soil that has had manure and compost as well as worms breaking it down since february, and then I spooned in some dry, composted llama manure and some compost; not too much, perhaps 4 gallons. I now have a 3/4 full container, and I am dreading the additional work required.

IonAccel

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2002, 09:53:00 pm »
I am a hydro man for MJ...but I am here to learn about some tips for my outdoor landscaping....
...My favorite new discovery is cocoa mulch....it smells just like a chocolate suprise!....It is made from hulls of cocoa beans. The only drawback with this expensive stuff is that is molds like a son of a gun if it gets damp and shady. Or maybe just I got a bad bag?:confused: :confused:
Don't forget the most important part of any specific soil formula: Sugar, spice, and everything nice.
.........and Chemical X!!:) :)

ommamedmar

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2002, 10:23:00 pm »
The cocoa beans might have a powder mold that sticks to the hulls; I imagine that the cocoa bean is an ideal mold vector.
This time of year, you shouldn't have mold problems in moderately watered, full sun areas of your outdoor environment.
BTW, my son is following in his father's footsteps and has decided that his first love is a cartoon character; Bubbles nonetheless.:rolleyes:

ommamedmar

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2002, 10:11:00 am »
The duffy black semi-decomposted forest chaff above the clay soil here is good for lightening and adding drainage to the soil mix; its slightly acidic, but I've gotten MONSTER results. I add perhaps 10 gallons to a thirty gallon container. I then shovel in treated clay-predominant soil that has been breaking down with worms, compost and manure for at least three months. I'll then add more compost and manure until I get a loose, brown soil that I then pop a root ball in to; I should be more scientific about ratios, but its like cooking; I eyeball everything.
I've had to build soil from nothing out here; going on three years, and the results continue to improve. Areas that I have removed blackberries from seem to be more nutrient rich; birds use it as cover and add to the nutrients with their poo. Any soil that can be shoveled easily and has some worms in it is a candidate for conditioning out here; I leave rocky clay soil alone as a rule, these days.

technoanarkst

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #5 on: June 19, 2002, 10:37:00 am »
All these parts can be found in my back yard, thats why I used them :)
1 1/2 part florida dirt (a/k/a sand) *
1 part oak leaves.
3/4 part peat moss
1/4 part spanish moss.
I usually spice it up with some small twigs and grass clippings.
bake in the oven for atleast 30 minutes to kill insect eggs.  
If you can grind the oak leaves, this will help alot, but the 1 part that I mention is un-ground.
I guess thats more of a compost mix... But I've had excellent results growing terrariums with that mix, right out of the oven.  Spanish moss is a Florida thing, as is "florida dirt" which is mostly sand.  Florida dirt doesnt hold much water, thats why you need the peat moss and spanish moss. Florida dirt also has very little organic matter in it (the good black stuff).  spanish moss is alive until you bake it.  everything else is already dead.  Im not sure about the content of spanish moss, but its not a green plant.  Its more grey than anything, and I added it to my mix as an experiment one time, and it didnt seem to hurt anything.  I like the grass clippings too, cuz they decompose quickly, and are very green (high in nitrogen)... the peat moss is alittle acidic, and holds water very well.   I've never tried this combo with mj, but its done great for some bansai trees, and terrariums that I have.
ok, rock on!
-techno

420woman

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #6 on: June 19, 2002, 03:00:00 pm »
organic, I keep meaning to post here as I have a lot to say about soils! but won't get to it till weekend I fear, as I am too busy.
But I will say that since you invited us to geek out on soil stuff, I dug out my old soils textbook. I wanted to see what the definition of "soil" would be, since in the other thread we were calling compost both a soil and an amendment!
To my surprise, the book doesn't define soil by its material, but by its functions. There's a lot to say about this, but again I won't be able to think it through for a few days. Sorry :( I will get back to it though I promise!

organic

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #7 on: June 19, 2002, 07:54:00 pm »
Thanks everyone!  The ball is starting to roll now...
OK here's a present.  I drug these definitions over from the excellent Glossary of Terms (http://www.hempcultivation.com/420/showthread.php?threadid=22915) started by ComfortablyNumb over in Indoors...
Perlite
a unique volcanic mineral which expands from four to twenty times its original volume when it is quickly heated to a temperature of approximately 1600-1700 degrees F. This expansion is due to the presence of two to six percent combined water in the crude perlite rock which causes the perlite to pop in a manner similar to that of popcorn.
When expanded, each granular, snow-white particle of perlite is sterile with a neutral pH and contains many tiny, closed cells or bubbles. The surface of each particle is covered with tiny cavities which provide an extremely large surface area. These surfaces hold moisture and nutrients and make them available to plant roots. In addition, because of the physical shape of each particle, air passages are formed which provide optimum aeration and drainage. Because perlite is sterile, it is free of disease, seeds, and insects.
Perlite has been used for many years throughout the world for soil conditioning and as a component of growing mixes with materials such as peat moss or bark. Extensive studies have shown that the unique capillary action of perlite makes it a superior growing media for hydroponic cultures.
Vermiculite
is sterile and light in weight (5 to 8 lbs/ft3). The pH of vermiculite will vary depending on where it is mined. Most U.S. sources are neutral to slightly alkaline, whereas vermiculite from Africa can be quite alkaline (pH = 9). Vermiculite is used extensively in the greenhouse industry as a component of mixes or in propagation. It is usually sold in four size grades: #1 is the coarsest and #4 the smallest. The finer grades are used extensively for seed germination or to topdress seed flats. Expanded vermiculite should not be pressed or compacted, especially when wet, as this will destroy the desirable physical properties.
Worm Casting
(Vermiconversion) or using earthworms to convert waste into soil additives, is a biologically active mound containing thousands of bacteria, enzymes, and remnants of plant materials and animal manures that were not digested by the earthworm. The composting process continues after a worm casting has been deposited. In fact, the bacterial population of a cast is much greater than the bacterial population of either ingested soil, or the earthworm's gut. An important component of this dark mass is humus.
Worm castings occupy the grey area between soil amendment and fertilizer, and are considered a form of compost.  They should be used at a rate of 10-30% of the soil mixture; any more provides no extra benefit to the plants.
Peat moss
The partially decomposed remains of mosses harvested commercially from the wild. Though difficult to wet initially, peat moss can absorb up to 25 times its own weight in water and is therefor valued as a an organic soil amendment. Peat moss is acidic --with a pH of about 3 or 4.0-- and should only be used around acid-loving plants or to help lower the pH of alkaline soils.

ommamedmar

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #8 on: June 19, 2002, 08:51:00 pm »
Since the earthworm product lists 30% as a type of ceiling on additiive ratios, I'm curious what percentages of composted manure or household compost that you can safely add; aforementioned compost would be, lets say, free of animal waste and composed of coffee grounds, vegetable wastes and hurds as well as composted garden waste.

IonAccel

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #9 on: June 19, 2002, 09:03:00 pm »
...I will let you all be the judges...(I cant create a organic additive deffinition without violating copyright laws?)
cocoamulch.com

organic

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #10 on: June 20, 2002, 08:09:00 am »
My experience with compost has been that 30% is probably a little bit too much, due to its extraordinary water-holding capabilities.  (Some kinds of compost can hold up to 190% of its weight in water!)  When I grew in a 30% mix, I had overwatering problems until the plants got to be about flowering size, but from then on it was fine.
Since the primary benefit from compost is the introduction of beneficial soil biota, rather than its fertilizer value, my suggestion is to use at a rate of 10-20% of the mix, with the amount adjusted for the percentage of worm castings if you're also using those.  I.e., if you are using both, you will probably want to keep the combined percentage around 30%, and definitely no higher than 40% which is probably too much as well.  As most of us have learned, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. ;)
Ion, I don't think there is a problem pulling the attributes of the cocoa mulch from that page, so I've gone ahead and done so.  The majority of their claims apply to any kind of mulch so I tried to include the attributes that are more unique to the particular product.
Cocoa Mulch
Hulls from the cocoa bean that have been treated to remove oils; can be used as ground cover, soil conditioner and fertilizer.  Its pH is 5.4 and has a fertility of N.P.K. 2-0.2-3.  For the outdoor grower, the texture of Cocoa Mulch may reduce damage to plants by deterring slugs and snails, and is also reputed to deter cats and deer.
The proteins in cocoa mulch help break down the shell into humus which in turn stimulates the production of soil bacteria.  Cocoa Mulch will add organic matter to your soil as it decomposes.
Keep them definitions rollin' in folks, once we get a critical mass of them I will consolidate them into a handy package.  I am aiming for this stuff to all be added to the grow guides eventually. :)
O

organic

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2002, 08:17:00 pm »
Horticultural Charcoal
Absorbs oils, salts and other impurities from the soil; encourages air circulation at the root level, and absorbs odors, so may help to offset some of the more fragrant organic ferts like fish emulsion.  Absorbs water and offers some help minimizing damage from overwatering and overfertilizing (activated charcoal is used to clean up pesticide spills).
Coco Coir
The shredded remnants of coconut husks.  Holds approximately 8 times its weight in water, while providing excellent aeration.  Contains rooting hormones,   protects plants from bacterial and fungal infestations, and stores and releases nutrients over extended periods of time.  Use as a pH-neutral substitute to peat moss; coco coir is considered a renewable resource as opposed to peat, which is technically renewable but in practice is not.

Q-Ball

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2002, 11:31:00 am »
hey what does vermucilate look like? i think i might of mistaken it for perlite, i always thought verm was the white stuff? is verm tan or light brown? see i use my friends moms supplies and she doesnt have it in bags their all in tubs so i need help identifying which is which.

3hounds

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #13 on: June 23, 2002, 01:50:00 pm »
Perlite = white.
Vermiculite = tanish grey.

maincola

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Creating your own soil! (Soil Building 101)
« Reply #14 on: June 23, 2002, 03:09:00 pm »
I have a huge pine tree in my backyard and there is a section where all the dead pine needles build up and the soil under that is rich, fertle, and dark.  I don't think many people have pine trees but thats one spot id go to start a mix of soil.